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4 docked over alleged cult membership



The police in Lagos on Monday arraigned four men before an Ogudu Magistrates’ Court, charged with unlawful possession of firearm and membership of a secret cult.

The four men are David Simon, 25, Emmanuel Ifeanyi, 24, Lucky Paul, 21, and Fatai Ojo, 19.

The defendants all of Ojo, near Lagos, however, pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful possession of firearm and membership of a secret cult.

The Prosecutor, Insp. Donjour Perezi, told the court that the defendants and others still at large committed the offences on June 10, at 9:30 p.m. at Onireke community in Ojo.

Perezi said that the defendants were caught by the police with an unlicensed locally-made pistol and three cartridges.

He also alleged that the defendants belonged to a secret cult called Eiye Confraternity.

The prosecutor said that the offences contravened Sections 42(a), 330 and 411of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Section 330 provides for a two-year jail term for illegal possession of firearms.

The Chief Magistrate, Mrs Bukola Mogaji, granted the defendants bail in the sum of N100, 000 each with two sureties each in like sum.

She adjourned the case until Aug. 28 for substantive hearing.


Roundup: Washington’s unruly withdrawal from WHO draws ire, opposition across globe




Washington’s decision to sever ties with the World Health Organization (WHO), widely seen as irresponsible and immoral, has once again riled the world for the Trump administration’s indulgence in scapegoating others, particularly China and the WHO, for its own malfeasance to handle the double crisis of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and rampant racial unrest across the country.

United States President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed China for loss of life and economic recession in the United States, as well as accused the WHO of being “China-centric.” However, it’s widely acknowledged that there is no evidence for the alleged wrongdoing of China and the WHO.

Public health experts and officials worldwide generally stand opposed to the U.S. president, debunking his moves “as a way to deflect attention” for his administration’s botched attempts to deal with domestic predicaments and calling for global collaboration.

Epidemiologists have revealed that 90 percent of American lives might have spared amid the pandemic had Washington imposed ristrictions including lockdown measures and social distancing two weeks earlier on March 2.

The pain for the U.S. exit from the WHO, a decision “both immoral and likely illegal,” will be inflicted on “the COVID-19 battlefields and in every poor community that relies on U.N. agencies for emergency food, child immunizations, essential medicines, and guidance,” Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, said in an article published by Foreign Policy.

Garrett also opined that Washington’s move to abandon the WHO “encapsulates the most questionable aspects of the president’s leadership style: his penchant to blame others for his mistakes, his refusal to share the global stage politely with other actors, his indulgence of blind self-interest, and his utter contempt of science.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America “stands strongly against President Trump‘s decision,” said Dr. Thomas M. File, its president, on Twitter. “We will not succeed against this pandemic, or any future outbreak, unless we stand together, share information and coordinate actions.”

Calling Trump‘s decision “shameful and irresponsible,” Ami Bera, Democrat of California in the United States House of Representatives, tweeted that leaving the WHO “will make the United States and the world less safe.”

The U.S. severance of ties with the WHO is “not a good sign,” said Shekhar Mande, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India.

“WHO is a valuable body which has played an important role. It has been involved in smallpox elimination, polio virus elimination and it has worked very well with countries,” he said, according to Indian daily newspaper Mint.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also voiced his opposition against Washington’s move, criticizing it as “the wrong signal at the wrong time,” according to German news media Funke. “We cannot tear down the dike in the middle of a storm,” Maas was quoted by Reuters as saying.


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Tokyo stocks advance in morning on hopes for global economic recovery




Tokyo stocks advanced Wednesday morning, as buying was supported by continued expectations that the further lifting of virus-linked restrictions in many countries would aid the recovery of the global economy.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 256.13 points, or 1.15 percent, from Tuesday to 22,581.74.

The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, added 9.50 points, or 0.60 percent, at 1,597.18.

Nonferrous metal, transportation equipment and rubber product issues comprised those that gained the most by the morning break.


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Vietnam’s phone export down 8.8 pct in 5 months




Vietnam earned nearly 18 billion U.S. dollars from exporting phones and components in the first five months of this year, posting a year-on-year decline of 8.8 percent, accounting for 18.1 percent of Vietnam’s total export revenue, according to the country’s General Statistics Office on Wednesday.

In May alone, Vietnam fetched 2.6 billion U.S. dollars from selling the products overseas, plunging 30 percent on-year.

Between January and May, Vietnam spent roughly 4.9 billion U.S. dollars importing phones and their components, seeing a year-on-year increase of 0.2 percent.

In 2019, the country reaped more than 51.8 billion U.S. dollars from exporting phones and components, posting a year-on-year increase of 5.3 percent, said the office.


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Fire, explosion fatalities in Vietnam down in 5 months




A total of 1,259 fires and explosions happened in Vietnam in the first five months of this year, killing 41 people and injuring 93 others.

The fires and explosions also caused property losses of some 298 billion Vietnamese dong (about 12.9 million U.S. dollars), the country’s Fire Prevention and Fight Department said on Wednesday.

Vietnam recorded 1,581 fires and explosions in the first five months of last year, which left 55 people dead and 83 others injured and caused losses of over 484 billion Vietnamese dong (21 million U.S. dollars).

In 2019, the country reported 3,755 fires and explosions which claimed 112 human lives, injured 177 people, and left property losses of some 1,400 billion Vietnamese dong (60.9 million U.S. dollars), said the department.


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New Zealand police officers charged with manslaughter



Three New Zealand Police officers have been charged with manslaughter, authorities said on Wednesday, following the death of a man in custody last year.

The 55-year-old man died while in custody at the Hawera police station, some 190 kilometres north of Wellington, in the early hours of June 1, 2019.

The charges allege the officers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were “grossly negligent” in their duty of care to the victim, and that this was a “causal factor” in his death, police said in a statement.

“The decision to file charges was made after a thorough investigation and consideration of legal advice from the New Plymouth Crown Solicitor and a Queen’s Counsel,” the statement said.

The victim’s family has been advised on the charges, and all three officers have been stood down from duty, the statement said.

The trio have been remanded on bail and will appear in court in late June.

Police said as the matter is before the courts, no further details or comments about the case would be made.

A police statement released last year following the incident said the man was found unresponsive at the police station during a routine check.

Police staff and paramedics tried to revive the man for more than 30 minutes.

“It is a very sad time for all involved, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the family,” Inspector Chris de Wattignar said at the time.

“Police staff make every effort to ensure the safety of those in Police custody.”

Edited By: Emmanuel (NAN) Yashim

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FG to engage community volunteers for house-to-house sensitisation on COVID-19 – Minister



The Federal Government is engage community volunteers on house-to-house sensitisation on the dangers and spread of COVID-19.

Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja, at the Presidential Taskforce (PTF), briefing on COVID-19.

The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that Nigeria currently has 10,578 confirmed CCOVID-19 cases in 35 States and FCT, of which 3,122 have been treated and discharged.

NAN reports that Nigeria recorded 299 deaths.

Ehanire said that the ministry was working with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, (NPHCDA) to finalise plans on the engagement of existing community volunteers and agents to conduct house to house sensitisation on COVID-19 at the community level.

He said that this would be done in “high burden” Local Government areas of Nigeria, since about 20 LGAs contribute nearly 60 per cent of the COVID-19 positive cases.

The COVID-19 burden is, as we know not evenly distributed within the country, with Kano and Lagos bearing the highest burden.

“A team from the FMoH, led by the ED of NPHCDA and comprising doctors from Departments of Family Health, Hospital Services and Public Health and NCDC, is in Lagos on an appraisal visit, during which a situation analysis will be conducted.

“The team will also visit the contiguous Ogun State on the same mission. The visits are in continuation of similar useful initiatives in the past to Kano, Katsina Sokoto, Jigawa, Gombe, and Borno, to share experience and ideas, align strategy and support each other,” he said.

The minister said that the ministry would continue to advocate for states to strengthen their response activities and have begun a program to strengthen the capacity of all Federal Health Institutions in Nigeria to deal with COVID-19 challenges in their States by additional training, supplies and equipment.

He said that the Federal Medical Centre Lokoja and University of Calabar Teaching Hospital would be prioritized for the deployment of Gene Xpert machines as soon as the test kits were validated by the Medical Laboratory Science Council.

He said this so that residents in Kogi and Cross River, among others, would no longer have a shortage of opportunity to be tested.

“Our observation is that states are at varying levels of readiness and it is important to re-strategise to meet all citizens at their points of need.

COVID-19 is long since a global phenomenon affecting nearly all parts of the world.

“All nations are working together and I urge all State authorities in Nigeria to accept the reality and also work with each other and Federal Government, and play their part in the strategy to keep the people safe.

“This includes the decentralization that requires making a minimum of 300 Isolation beds ready, so that the national health system does not run out of COVID-19 bed spaces,” he said.

He, however said that as  the President advised that it was best to be fully prepared even if Nigerians do not have to use it.

“ In this regard, the FMOH stands ready to support all States in their efforts to build resilient and responsive systems for citizens in their States.

“The FCT, for example, is no longer under bed space pressure, having been well supported with assets to meet all levels of care, security and needs,” he said.

Ehanire said that there would therefore be no reason for a COVID-19 positive person to be outside a designated Isolation and Treatment centre, especially with the ThisDay Dome Isolation centre ready to take cases.

He noted that it would  be headed, in the introductory phase, by the Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, one of the most experienced virus disease hospitals in Nigeria.

He also said the FCT managed Idu COVID-19 treatment centre wih 500 beds ready.

He, however, said that the FMOH have conducted an analysis of Health Care Worker Infections and identified critical areas for targeted intervention, to include continuous updates and retraining.

More than 13,000 health workers have been trained, which will result in reduced rate of infection, especially in the line of duty. We are collaborating with States to cascade the training to lower cadre workers.

“A few weeks ago, I announced that Nigeria will participate in COVID-19 drug trial, which the WHO was leading but partly suspended.

“After consultation with top Nigerian scientists of the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee, I am advised that Nigeria has something to add to the body of knowledge around these trials.

“I have therefore approved the continuation of the trial, as recommended, under strong precautionary conditions to be built into it,” he said.

According to him, the leadership of the Ministry also had the first briefing with the Ministerial Advisory Panel of Experts on Monday and received a series of very useful advisories that will be discussed and shared with Heads of Agencies and Departments of the Ministry.

“Finally, as we move into the next phase of easing of the lockdown, I urgently call on all, to take responsibility for ensuring that we actively play our role in ensuring that COVID-19 does not spike or bounce up, as has been observed in many countries where lockdown was relaxed.

“It is important to bear in mind that this phase, more than the lockdown itself, is in the hands of the people, more than in the hand of government.

“We must fight the spread of the disease by adhering more strictly than ever, to the various social guidelines which have been announced, published and publicized,” he advised.

He urged Nigerians to wear their face mask in the public, once they leave their house, or even inside their house, if they were  not sure of the COVID-19 status of people they  live with.

“Wear your mask on your face, not under your chin; it has no value under your chin.

“Be very sensitive about respiratory hygiene, wash hands regularly, use sanitizers and observe physical distancing. Open your windows to let in fresh air whenever it is safe to do so,” he said.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo /Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Zoom’s customers and sales rise as pandemic changes working life



Video conferencing app Zoom doubled its sales forecast for the year and posted considerable gains in total revenue and customers, it said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

The company disclosed that it had 30 times the amount of users compared to December results as the coronavirus pandemic forced employees to work from home office.

The global disruption to working life reshaped the company from a corporate tool to a digital hangout space.

Eric S. Yuan, chief executive and founder of Zoom, said the crisis had driven demand for the service as people “integrated Zoom into their work, learning, and personal lives.”

The company did not disclose active user numbers.

This was in keeping with its previous practices, CNBC reported.

Zoom said it now has more than  265,000 corporate customers with more than ten employees – an increase of 354 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Some 769 customers – twice as many as a year earlier – spent more than 100,000 dollars a year on Zoom’s services.

Total revenue nearly tripled for the quarter to reach 328.2 million dollars compared to 122 million a year earlier.

The huge spike made the company raise its full-year sales forecast to between 1.78 billion to 1.8 billion from 915.0 million.

But it has not been all smooth sailing, with the tech company facing bans from governments and corporations due to privacy and security concerns.

In the wake of the criticism, Zoom invested heavily in cloud and security software, increasing the company’s cost of revenue by 330 per cent to 103.7 million.

Edited by  Emmanuel Yashim

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Zuckerberg defends not criticising Trump over threat of violence



Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has defended himself for not condemning remarks by United States President Donald Trump appearing to threaten violent retribution against demonstrators protesting the death of a black man at the hands of police, according to media reported on Tuesday.

In a tweet which was also visible on his Facebook page, Trump slammed demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis as “THUGS” and appeared to promote a violent response by saying, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

That phrase was first used by a Miami police chief in 1967 to justify a violent crackdown on black neighbourhoods.

Twitter placed a “public interest notice” on the post for violating the platform’s rules “about glorifying violence,” a move not mirrored by Facebook.

Online magazine The Verge reported that Zuckerberg held a long conference call with Facebook employees and addressed accusations that the social media platform allowed election misinformation and veiled promotions of violence from Trump.

Zuckerberg told employees he should have offered them more transparency, The Verge reported citing a recording of the meeting.

But he stood by what he termed a “pretty thorough” evaluation of Trump’s posts, saying the choice to avoid labeling or removing them was difficult but correct.

According to the recording, Zuckerberg described being upset by some of Trump’s recent posts, including the one regarding looting.

“(But) I knew that I needed to separate out my personal opinion … from what our policy is and the principles of the platform we’re running are.”

Several Facebook employees have resigned over the lack of action, the New York Times reported.

One said publicly that the company would end up “on the wrong side of history.”

Edited By: Emmanuel (NAN) Yashim

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New Zealand reveals details for relaxed COVID-19 rules as country returning to normal




Restrictions on businesses will be removed under COVID-19 Alert Level 1, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the details on Wednesday as New Zealanders are seeing their lives returning to normal.

New Zealand reported no new case of COVID-19 for 12 consecutive days on Wednesday.

The decision to move down to Alert Level 1 will be made on June 8, Ardern said, adding it was possible that New Zealand could move down to Alert Level 1 by June 10.

Strict border controls will still remain, Ardern said, adding restrictions on hospitality businesses, gatherings and community sport will be lifted.

She said it is not necessary to consider physical distancing measures under Alert Level 1, but the government still encourages contact tracing efforts.

Ardern stressed coughing etiquette because risks remain as New Zealand heads into winter with more asymptomatic transmission.

New Zealand‘s combined total of confirmed and probable cases stayed at 1,504, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a press conference on Wednesday.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains at 1,154, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization, Bloomfield said.

The number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 is unchanged at 1,481, he said, adding the situation was “hugely satisfying.”

The number of COVID-19 related deaths in New Zealand remained at 22, with no additional deaths, he said, adding there is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19.

The NZ COVID Tracer app has now recorded 487,000 registrations, according to the health ministry.


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